What You Need to Know About Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek's Proving Up

January 22 - 30, 2022 Performed at the Goodman Theatre

CHICAGO (12/8/2021) —Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the acclaimed chamber opera by the award-winning team of composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek: Proving Up, performed at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre, January 22–30, 2022. This gripping drama is a haunting, supernatural story of Nebraska homesteaders in the 1870s and their dream of "proving up" and obtaining the deed to the land they have settled. The opera leads audiences into a world where a law’s requirement of a single glass window can shatter the hopes and dreams of a family, and what happens when those dreams turn into nightmares.

  • Lyric debut for an award-winning team. Proving Up is the latest collaboration by a creative team that is among the most sought-after in the opera world: composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek. Their 2016 opera Breaking the Waves won the inaugural Best New Opera Award from the Music Critics Association of North America.

  • A composer with strong Chicago roots. One of the most prominent American composers of her generation, Missy Mazzoli recently concluded a term as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Mead Composer-in-Residence. She is a prolific composer of opera, orchestral, and chamber works, and also composes for film and television (you may have heard her work performed in Amazon Prime’s Mozart in the Jungle). In advance of the Chicago premiere of Proving Up, she was named Composer of the Year by Musical America Worldwide.

  • A powerhouse librettist. Royce Vavrek is the literary voice behind some of the most heralded recent American operas, including Dog Days and JFK with composer David T. Little, 27 and A House Without a Christmas Tree with composer Ricky Ian Gordon, and Angel’s Bone with composer Du Yun, which was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music. He also has enduring creative partnerships with composers Gregory Spears and Paola Prestini.

  • Introducing another facet of Lyric’s music director, Enrique Mazzola. Following his triumphs conducting Macbeth and The Elixir of Love, Mazzola returns to the podium for the third time this season to conduct the first contemporary work of his tenure as Music Director. A chamber orchestra composed of 13 members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra will play Mazzoli’s evocative score, which features eight guitars in the percussion section. The woodwinds and brass players also double on the harmonica.

  • A visionary creative team brings Proving Up to life. Director James Darrah, who directed the original award-winning production of Mazzoli and Vavrek’s opera Breaking the Waves, makes his Lyric debut with an atmospheric production that transforms the Goodman’s intimate Owen Theatre into the plains of Nebraska. His collaborators include set designer Adam Rigg, costume designer Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko, and lighting designer Pablo Santiago, all in their Lyric debuts.

  • Casting features a diverse mix of new and returning artists. The opera’s cast is led by Talise Trevigne (Kitty Hart in Dead Man Walking in Lyric’s 2019/20 season) as Ma Zegner and Edward Parks (Valentin in Faust in Lyric’s 2017/18 season) as Pa Zegner and also features Ryan Opera Center alumnus Annie Rosen (seven roles at Lyric since the 2015/16 season) as Taller Sister. Making their Lyric debuts are Miles Mykkanen as Miles Zegner, Boya Wei as Little Sister, and Andrew Harris as the Sodbuster.

  • Only four chances to see this acclaimed work: January 22, 26, 28, and 30, 2022.

  • Lyric Unlimited, Lyric's department dedicated to learning and community initiatives, will host post-show discussions following the January 22 performance with members of the Proving Up creative team and on January 26 and 28 with members of the cast.

  • Performed in English with projected English texts.

  • 1 hour and 25 minutes, performed without intermission.

  • Presented at the Owen Theatre at Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn Street, Chicago.

Adapted from the short story "Proving Up" by Karen Russell, part of her collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Co-commissioned by Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha, and Miller Theatre at Columbia University. © 2018 G.Schirmer, Inc.

Lyric’s health and safety protocols will apply to the performances of Proving Up at the Goodman. For updated information, visit lyricopera.org/safety.

Learn more about Proving Up here

Lyric Opera of Chicago thanks its Official Airline, American Airlines.

Lyric Opera of Chicago is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Enrique Mazzola is generously sponsored by the following members of the Enrique Circle

Alice & John Butler


H. Gael Neeson

Sylvia Neil & Daniel Fischel

Robert & Penelope Steiner Family Foundation

The Enrique Circle is comprised of Lyric’s most dedicated supporters who are committed to championing Maestro Enrique Mazzola's exciting artistic vision and legacy.

Lyric’s presentation of Mazzoli’s Proving Up is generously made possible by

Bill & Orli Staley Foundation

The Family of Seymour H. Persky

Addition support for Proving Up is provided by Mark Ferguson & Elizabeth Yntema in support of female leadership in the performing arts.

About Lyric

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Enrique Mazzola, and Special Project Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

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